Debate, don’t hate as we approach elections, say councils

The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, is encouraging everyone to set a positive tone during this election period, leaving behind toxic discourse when engaging with local candidates and representatives.


Sign with says polling station attached to glass door alongside other community notices

The Local Government Association is urging people to engage in positive, constructive debates ahead of the upcoming local elections and to find out more about the role of local councillors.

Local elections are a great opportunity for residents to have a say in who their local leaders are and shape the future of their communities. This May will see around 5,000 seats elected in councils of all types across England and Wales.

However, across the UK there are growing concerns about levels of public intimidation and toxicity of debate in local politics, both online and in person. This behaviour not only risks the personal safety and wellbeing of councillors but also undermines the fabric of local democracy.

The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, is encouraging everyone to set a positive tone during this election period, leaving behind toxic discourse when engaging with local candidates and representatives.

Increased participation within local democracy is something that councils strive for, as broadening the diversity of people standing as candidates and of those engaging with the elected helps councils make better informed decisions for their communities.

It is therefore important that members of the public can approach and work with their local councillors; it’s also important that councillors feel safe to work with residents without fear of negative reprisal, whether it be physical or verbal.

LGA Chairman, Cllr James Jamieson and the LGA’s Group Leaders, said:

“Councillors play a unique role in representing the needs of residents, often working together cross-party to tackle important local issues and to improve the quality of life of local people.

“Robust and lively debate in our councils and with our residents is a crucial part of the democratic process. Differences of opinion and the defence of those opinions through councillors’ arguments and public debate are an essential part of the cut and thrust of political life. 

“But we hear too many harrowing stories from councillors and officers about the harassment and intimidation they face. This is unacceptable and damages our democracy by forcing people from public service.

“As we approach the May local elections, I urge residents to find out more about the important role of councillors representing and leading their communities and engage in positive, constructive conversations and debates, to help make local democracy a welcoming environment for all.”

Notes to editors

  1. LGA Group Leaders are Cllr Nick Forbes (Labour), Cllr Izzi Seccombe (Conservative), Cllr Joe Harris (Liberal Democrat) and Cllr Marianne Overton (Independent and other political parties).
  2. The LGA is taking forward a significant programme of work to help improve civility in public life
  3. The latest episode of the LGA’s Forget What You Think You Know Podcast (live from 22 March) features discussion around the role of local councillors and interviews with figures from local government.
  4. The LGA is encouraging people to remember the 5 rules of engagement when engaging with local councillors which were commissioned by the LGA as part of our work to help councillors and candidates with Digital citizenship.
  1. Expressing disagreement with courtesy, respect and politeness
  2. Do not message abuse, threats or harassment
  3. Racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic or ageist discrimination will not be tolerated
  4. Do not share false or unverified information
  5. Full transparency is important, people should not message anonymously.